Reading Like a Dyslexic Reader

Jill Stowell Dyslexia, General Information, Learning Disability

I recently took a trip to Paris. I don’t speak French and I don’t read French, but when French is all there is to read and you want to know where you are, what’s on the menu, and what you’re looking at, you have to try to read French.

I am completely mystified by the spelling of many French sounds, but what I found was that while I could never have read anything out loud in French, if I knew the context, I could recognize enough words or word parts that looked like something I knew (English or Spanish) that I could kind of figure it out.

I realized that I was reading like a dyslexic reader.

Often students with dyslexia have very good comprehension, so while they can’t read accurately or fluently while reading aloud, they may be able to read silently by looking for words and word parts they understand and connect-the-dots through their own knowledge of the context and their strong deductive reasoning.

Several things about this experience made me empathize with our dyslexic students.

First, it is so tempting just to ignore print because it’s too hard to make sense of.

Second, it takes much more energy and attention to try to make sense of the written word than it does when reading comes naturally for you.

And third, if I could read silently and had enough time, I could often get the gist of what I was reading.

Dyslexic students are often misunderstood by parents and teachers and even themselves because they can get just enough to look like they read better than they really do. This makes their performance very inconsistent and their avoidance of reading related tasks look like laziness or lack of motivation.

We’ll explore the real issues underlying dyslexia in another post, but here’s the important thing to understand about dyslexia: It doesn’t have to be permanent. By addressing the underlying auditory and visual processing challenges that cause reading to be confusing, the roadblocks to learning to read and spell can be dramatically changed or completely eliminated.

The Dyslexia Challenge:

If you are interested in really understanding what it feels like to have a reading or spelling challenge, join us for our upcoming simulation.

Dyslexia Simulation – April 20, 2013 – Chino, CA

Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP

3 Reasons Why Your Child’s Attention Problem Might NOT Be ADHD (Part 2)

Jill Stowell ADHD, General Information, Learning Disability

What’s really going on when smart kids struggle to pay attention in school? What could be causing your child’s attention problem?

Last week we introduced 3 students who struggle to pay attention in school.

Jeremy’s constant wiggling not only keeps him from getting his work done, but is a real distraction to his classmates.

Manny is driving his teacher crazy (and subsequently his mom, too) because he’s clearly smart, but “chooses” to entertain the class rather than do his own work.

Sara’s teacher reports that she daydreams and simply doesn’t listen, and as a result, never knows what to do.

3 Students – 3 Different Learning Challenges Affecting Attention

Jeremy can’t sit still in his chair because of a retained primitive reflex called the Spinal Galant. 

Primitive reflexes are involuntary movements that are present in infants to help with the birthing process and adaptation as a newborn. If these reflexes don’t “disappear” within about the first year of life, they will continue to fire and cause neurological interference that can get in the way of efficient development and easy learning. This is called neurodevelopmental delay.

Jeremy’s retained Spinal Gallant reflex causes him to wiggle in his chair when he doesn’t mean to. When he tries hard to sit still, it takes all of his attention, so he can’t really think about what the teacher is saying or what he’s supposed to be doing on his assignments.

Manny is dyslexic. He’s very smart and very clever. He has memorized some words, but he can’t sound out new words and sometimes when he looks at the page, it seems like the words and letters are moving around. At nine-years-old, he’s already figured out that getting in trouble for “entertaining” his neighbors is better than anyone knowing he can’t read.



Sara has an auditory processing problem. She tries so hard to listen, but what she’s hearing is spotty and inconsistent, like a bad cell phone connection. She tries to fill-in the gaps, but pretty soon, it just doesn’t make sense and she can’t keep her attention on it anymore. 



Can These Challenges Be Fixed?

Weak or inefficient underlying learning/processing skills such as Jeremy’s neurodevelopmental delays, Manny’s challenges with visual and auditory processing skills related to reading, and Sara’s auditory processing problem, will stress the attention system. In class and during homework, this easily looks like an attention problem – even ADD or ADHD. But the attention problem is really just a symptom of weak underlying skills.

Here’s the great news: These underlying skills can be developed. Addressing the root cause of the poor attention symptom can eliminate the problem.

Is There Such a Thing As ADHD?

Yes, I believe that there are children and adults who truly have ADD or ADHD – an actual biochemical attention deficit. We just want to be careful not to assume that every student who struggles to pay attention in class has this diagnosis. The behaviors in class often look the same and as a result, far too many children end up on medication.

Because there does appear to be a biochemical component to a true attention deficit, we find that the best kind of treatment is a combination of attention focus training and addressing the biochemistry. Many of our clients are very successfully able to do this through diet and natural supplements.

Take a Walk in Their Shoes

Empathy is a first great step in understanding and helping students with learning and attention challenges. Here’s your chance. JOIN US for our upcoming simulations.

▪ Attention Challenges Simulation – April 13, 2013 – Irvine, CA
▪ Dyslexia Simulation – April 20, 2013 – Chino, CA

Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP

3 Reasons Why Your Child’s Attention Problem Might NOT Be ADHD (Part 1)

Jill Stowell ADHD, General Information, Learning Disability

 “Your child just can’t seem to pay attention in class.  It could be ADHD.”

 Yes. It could be ADHD, but did you know that there are many other reasons why kids struggle to pay attention in class and when doing homework?  At Stowell Learning Center, the vast majority of our students have attention challenges, but only a very small minority actually have ADHD.

 3 students. One common story.

 Jeremy wiggles constantly in his chair. It keeps him from getting his work done and is very distracting to the students sitting near him.

Manny talks to his neighbors all the time instead of doing his work. He’s always interested in what everyone else is doing, but he can’t seem to pay attention to his own work.

Sara tries really hard to be “good.” She sits up tall and looks right at the teacher. But pretty soon, she’s fiddling with things on her desk or staring straight through the teacher. When it’s time to start working, Sara always has to ask, “What were we supposed to do?”

Sound Familiar?  These students, their parents, their teachers, and maybe even some of their classmates are frustrated by their attention problems, but not one of them has ADHD!

 If Not ADHD, then what?

Good attention and successful, easy learning depend upon a solid foundation of underlying learning skills. These skills include the following:

 Core Learning Skills: These are basic visual and motor skills that help children develop a sense of self, internal organization, and body and attention awareness and control.

Processing Skills: These are skills such as attention, memory, auditory and visual processing (how we think about and understand things that we see or hear), processing speed, language comprehension, and phonemic awareness (the thinking process critical to reading that supports learning and using phonics).

Executive Function: This is our personal manager that guides and directs our attention and behavior. It helps us reason, problem solve, organize, and make decisions.

Poor attention in class may be a symptom, not the real problem.
If a child has problems with any of the underlying learning skills, his attention system will also be stressed. While attention may become a problem in school or with homework, it may not actually be the real problem. 



What’s really going on with Jeremy, Manny, and Sara?
What could be causing your child’s attention problem?

 Visit our blog next week for answers!

Here’s the great news:  The weak or inefficient underlying learning/processing skills can be developed.  Addressing the root cause of the poor attention symptom can eliminate the problem.

P.S.  If you are interested in really understanding what it feels like to have a learning or attention challenge, join us for our upcoming simulations. 

▪   Attention Challenges Simulation – April 13, 2013 – Irvine, CA

▪   Dyslexia Simulation – April 20, 2013 – Chino, CA

Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP